Making up one-third of the protein in the human body, collagen is found in the dermis of our skin, as well as our bones, muscles and tendons. Think of it as the ‘glue’ holding the body together, giving us strength, resilience and healthy-looking skin.
However, after age 20, our collagen production slows down. As a result, we start to experience signs of aging, like wrinkles, sagging skin and weaker joints. What’s a person to do? Is it possible to boost the body's collagen levels naturally?
Collagen is one of the most talked-about anti-agers at the moment. You typically see it listed as an ingredient on skincare products. But now everyone is turning to another form: ingestible (edible) collagen.
Ingestible collagen is designed to increase the body’s natural collagen production by providing specific amino acids, which play an essential role in collagen synthesis.
Ingestible collagen comes in several forms, including powders, beverages and pills. These sources get their collagen from cows, fish, chickens and other animals. There are also plant-based versions for vegans and vegetarians.
Collagen supplements have surged in popularity in the health and beauty world. But what can you realistically expect from ingesting them?
Although more research is needed, some experts say that collagen can improve the health of hair, nails, skin and joints. In a study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, researchers found that skin elasticity significantly improved when study participants took a collagen supplement for eight weeks.
In another study involving subjects who took a collagen supplement for three months, researchers noted “noticeable reduction in skin dryness, wrinkles, and nasolabial fold depth [and] a significant increase in collagen density and skin firmness after 12 weeks.”
In regard to joint health, athletes with exercise-related joint pain who took 10 grams of collagen daily showed a reduction of their symptoms, according to findings from a Penn State University study.
The good news is you can still protect the collagen you already have. Make these five lifestyle shifts a permanent habit and you may notice some remarkable changes in your skin tone, texture and overall health:
You can't ‘supplement’ your way out of a poor diet and lifestyle. So if you're looking to preserve and fortify your existing collagen, you need to start there. Otherwise, it's very likely that whatever aging problem you’re trying to resolve will still remain.
To get more collagen, you can’t go wrong with eating collagen-rich food. Bone broth, eggs and gelatin contain collagen. Meat and fish also contain it, so if you're eating a high-protein diet, you're likely ingesting collagen already. But the parts of animals that offer the most collagen are the parts you are likely not eating -- things like bones, skin and tendons. That’s why bone broth, which involves cooking the bones and marrow of animals to release collagen, has become so popular.
If you don't eat meat, you can take in more plant sources that contain pro-collagen ingredients -- ones that support collagen production. For example, proline and glycine are two amino acids involved in collagen synthesis. You can find them in soybeans, spirulina (an edible algae) and agar, a substance derived from red algae.
Vitamin C and iron are both essential for collagen production, and omega-3 fatty acids protect your existing collagen from damage. To boost your intake of vitamin C, add more bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, berries and citrus fruits; iron can be found in shellfish, red meat, and spinach; and omega-3s can be derived from salmon, mackerel and sardines.
If you're looking for an added collagen boost on the daily, a collagen supplement is a smart choice. Also, if you don't eat much (or any) meat, you may want to consider collagen supplementation.
You can buy a collagen powder and mix it in your tea, coffee or smoothie. A simpler route is to buy a quality collagen supplement (remember to get approval from your doctor first). Since they don’t require any preparation, pill forms are a quick and convenient option for people on the go.
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